Saturday, October 30, 2010
Above the Dungeon, Chapter 1
Maddox was grinning from ear to ear when he introduced Adair to the manager. "You've heard of 'Country Mouse, City Mouse,' right, Mike? Well, this is my fine, respectable country club cousin -- genuine, gentrified, pure of heart and pretty blond head. He's run away to the big city, and he needs a job."
Mike looked Adair up and down, a baffled expression on his face. "Can you dance?"
The DJ was cueing up, or fooling around, something. It was late afternoon, but too early for customers. The music was techno and fast, a steady thumpa-thumpa beat driving it. "I don't think so," Adair said. "Not to this."
"Well, you're not big enough to bounce. Can you tend bar?"
Could he tend bar? His first, second, and third jobs had been tending bar for country club functions. "Yes, I can definitely tend bar. I make pretty good tips, too."
Mike's eyes traveled from Adair's head slowly down his body to his toes one more time. "I bet." He directed the next question to Maddox. "How straight-laced is he?"
"As tight as they come," Maddox said with a grin.
Adair beamed with pride at the praise. It didn't occur to him that it wasn't a compliment.
Mike the manager snorted. "He can tend bar a couple of nights. We'll see how it goes, but they're gonna eat him up, try to turn him."
"I know," Maddox said. "It'll be fun to watch."
"You're a real asshole," Mike said, but he didn't say it like he meant it, and Maddox just shrugged and smiled.
"Name?" Mike asked.
Maddox spoke before Adair could. "Dare."
Mike laughed, "All right, Dare, since Thursdays aren't all that busy, I dare you to start tonight." He flipped a bill out of his pocket and toward Adair. "Doc, take him shopping. He needs a uniform. I'll take it out of your tips, Dare." He walked away, but called back over his shoulder, "I'll have paperwork for you tonight, so show up a little early."
Adair reveled in a moment of sheer relief. He wouldn't starve or end up homeless. "I got the job. Thanks Maddox."
"Yeah, well, you might not thank me later. And hey, around here call me 'Doc' -- everyone does."
"How come they call you Doc?" Dare asked.
"It's a long story," his cousin said. "I'll tell it to you sometime. But right now we need to get you some decent clothes."
The shopping trip should have been his first clue. Maddox didn't take him up to Fifth Avenue, that's for sure. Instead, they went to a small, trendy, secondhand store, and the clerk was obviously gay, and obviously knew Maddox. "This is my cousin, Dare," Maddox said to the clerk. "He's just been hired as a bartender at Above the Dungeon. Can you help?"
The clerk gave Dare the most disapproving look ever, then walked a circle around him with a cloth measuring tape, clucking. "Dockers, ew. Genuine Polo shirt, double ew. Boat shoes? You've got to be kidding. Ugh."
Dare felt a bit offended. He'd dressed casually, yes, but appropriately, he thought, to interview for a non-professional sort of job. It wasn't like he was asking to work at a bank. He had considered wearing a suit, but it seemed like overkill.
"Truly an emergency, Doc, thanks for thinking of me," the clerk said, as he went around the store, still clucking, piling clothing into Dare's arms from the racks. "Okay, here's the dressing room. You can give us a fashion show. Start with the red pants and the white t-shirt."
Dare obeyed. He had no idea what kind of uniform or dress code the club had, so he'd have to trust Maddox. The red pants were kind of tight. They were so shiny he might have thought they were plastic, but no, they were just some weird, stretchy material. The shirt was tight, too. He looked in the mirror and laughed out loud. He was definitely Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. He was about to take the clothes off and try something else when the clerk popped in right past the curtain and looked him over.
"Oooh," the clerk squealed. "Much better. Well, you can't hide in here, come out, come out. Doc, what do you think?"
Maddox laughed. "A little bright, but the look is good."
Dare wondered if his cousin was right out of the head crazy. "Are you serious? This is what Mike considers uniform?"
Maddox shrugged. "Yeah, it's all right. The shirt could be a little shorter, show some skin, but overall it's good."
Dare sighed. "Do you have anything black?" he asked, hoping for something a little more conservative.
A pile of acceptable clothing had grown on the counter by the time Maddox said, "That should do, for a start. I'll send him back if he needs anything else."
"Okay, let's find some accessories," the clerk suggested. "How about shoes?"
Dare looked at the clerk's feet and thought his eyes might pop out of his head. "Nothing like that," he said, pointing at the weird, white elf shoes the clerk was wearing. They were loafers, but not exactly. And they looked stupid.
"What's wrong with my shoes?" the clerk said, insulted.
Dare figured it was the clerk's turn to be insulted. "They're ugly."
Maddox cracked up, but saved the day. "Never mind, Liam, we'll get him some new Reeboks. It'll be fine."
"Jewelry?" Liam asked.
"Nah, not today. Maybe later," Maddox said. "You carry underwear, right? New?"
Liam looked offended. "Of course. I wouldn't sell used underwear. Although I might buy some," he said, and winked at Maddox.
Dare shook his head. The guy was crazy. Maddox, too, who insisted that Dare needed thong underwear. Dare was a little bit scandalized, but, like the clothes, he took Maddox's word about what he needed.
They went back to Maddox's apartment. "Catch a nap," Maddox advised him. "We could be working till six in the morning."
"You're kidding." Dare couldn't fathom it.
"Depends how busy it gets and how much clean up there is. If it's dead, we might be out of there by one. You never know."
Dare laid on the couch, staring at the ceiling, marveling that he'd pulled it off and found a job. Something was nagging at him. He sat straight up for a minute, then sagged back down. Today was his parents' fortieth anniversary. Tomorrow night, Friday, would be the party. He was supposed to be there, at the party, and was fully expected to make a dramatic marriage proposal to his girlfriend, Melissa. But he couldn't do it.
He was twenty-seven years old, and groomed his whole life to be his father's business legacy. Ivy League MBA, perfectly schooled in polite conversation and pretty country club manners.
A week ago, he'd woken up in sheer terror of the rest of his life. He'd propose to Melissa, she'd say yes, he'd keep working for his father, and they'd have a couple of kids, join a couple of clubs, and that would be his life. It was an epiphany that this was not IT. This was not the life he wanted. He was bored to death with the genteel country club set, and became convinced that if he didn't do something now, he'd be trapped forever.
Desperate to escape, he'd called his mother's sister and asked for his cousin's phone number. He knew Maddox was in New York City, working at a club as a bouncer or a bartender, something. The details had always been vague. But he'd called Maddox, and here he was. He had a place to sleep and a job. A new life waiting. Ahhh... freedom.
He'd have to call Melissa, probably soon, and his parents, and somehow explain something. But he didn't know how or what. He let different scenarios play out in his mind as he fell asleep.
The next thing he knew, Maddox was shaking him, saying, "Up and at ‘em, Dare, it's time to get cleaned up and go to work."
After a fast shower, he put on silly, shiny black pants and a white t-shirt. And thong underwear, but only after Maddox threw them at him. He could feel the string between his ass cheeks as they walked out the door, and he hoped it didn't make him walk funny.
It took Dare about five minutes tending bar to realize this wasn't a regular club. A few too many penetrating looks and long, lush smiles, way too many fingertips brushing his as a drink got passed across the polished wood bar -- touches followed by raised brows over intense eyes.
He knew he sounded panicked as he yelled for his cousin. "Maddox! I mean, Doc..."
Doc, also tending bar, strolled into Dare's territory. "What?"
And suddenly Dare didn't quite know what to say. He bit his lip. "Umm... you didn't tell me everyone here is..." He let his voice drift away.
"What, drinking?" his cousin asked, letting Dare squirm and obviously loving it.
"No, they're..." Dare couldn't say it. "You know..."
Doc laughed out loud. "You never asked."
Mike came walking by, but caught up short when he saw a pile of bills beneath the bar. "Tips," Dare told him with a grin.
"Over there." Mike pointed to a beer box on the floor. "Bartenders split them at the end of the night." He noted Dare's crestfallen look. "Hey, one might be pretty, but another mixes really good drinks. It's fair. If you want to keep your own tips, learn to dance." He pointed across the bar at the dancing boys.
Dare blushed. "I don't think so," he said, shaking his head. He gathered up his tips and added them to the bartenders' box.
The night went okay. Mixing drinks was mixing drinks, whether he did it at a country club or a gay bar. There were a lot of regular customers who were very charmed with having a new face behind the bar. They were friendly, and sometimes even flirtatious, and Dare quickly realized they didn't make him nervous at all. He thought they were fun, not threatening. He even asked one guy, "Hey, how come this place is called Above the Dungeon?"
Everybody within earshot laughed. The guy he asked laughed, too, but then answered. "Because Roman's dungeon is in the basement."
"Roman's dungeon?" Dare repeated. "I don't get it."
"Roman is into leather. Really into leather," the customer explained. "And his dungeon is legendary." The customer looked around. "There." He pointed. "The guy in the leather vest watching the dancing boys."
It took Dare a minute to see him, a man that stood off to the side of the dancing platform, quiet and still like the ultimate strong, silent type. He wore a black leather vest over a naked chest, and was looking at the dancers, staring at them, really, with a thoughtful, distant expression. His hair was close to his head, like it was growing in after being shaved, and his arms were covered with tattoos.
'That's Roman," the customer said. "If looking at him makes you want to drop to your knees and kiss his boots, I could introduce you."
Dare jerked his head to look at the customer. "Seriously? People do that?"
The customer laughed. "And more."
"Weird," Dare said, then shook his head and turned his attention to the next person waiting for a drink.
An hour later, that next person was Roman.
Dare looked up to ask for the order and got caught in Roman's eyes. They were simple eyes, hazel or green, but they had an intensity that trapped Dare's standard opening line, "What'll it be?" in his throat. "Hey," was all he managed to get out. The tattoos weren't just on Roman's arms and body. One of them, some kind of tribal design, started on the left side of his face, and Dare could see that it curved around his skull under his hair, like a shadow under water.
"Hey, yourself, new guy,'" Roman said, and he smiled. "I'm Roman."
"Dare," Dare said, offering a hand.
He didn't know why he offered a handshake. He hadn't introduced himself that formally to anyone else all night. Out of respect, he decided, because somehow Roman commanded respect. Even from the newest bartender.
Roman accepted the courtesy, and the tattoos of snakes and dragons seemed to ripple and move with Roman's muscles. His handshake was a strong clasp that lasted seconds longer than it should have as Roman stared into Dare's eyes, and something in the stare was a deep, dark question.
Friday and Saturday nights were so busy, Dare barely managed even five minutes of down time. But Sunday night was pretty quiet. It was also the night that Roman came up behind Dare at the bar. "Slow tonight -- come with me. I want to show you something."
Roman had a hand on Dare's shoulder, guided him into the back room, and unlocked a door Dare had assumed was a closet. When Roman pulled it open, Dare could see a flight of stairs descending into darkness.
"The infamous dungeon?" Dare asked.
"Yes," Roman said.
Dare's balls constricted, his ass clenched, and a terrified tremor flew up his spine. Roman was watching his face and must have seen the flash of fear, because he said, "It's just a tour."
Dare had never even imagined stuff like the what Roman showed him. A high bench specifically made for a person to bend over for a good spanking. The seat of the bench lifted, and inside was an array of paddles -- from soft velvet to spike studded leather, and almost anything in between. Belts in there, too -- to give a person a good strapping if that was required.
Dare was uncomfortable and embarrassed, and let his eyes slide away from that particular set-up, but there was nowhere more comfortable for his gaze to rest. Every inch of the place was ready for sexual dominance, pain, and humiliation. There were scary-looking tools hooked to every wall, and several taller-than-the-average-man Xs, built from four by six timbers bolted together, each outfitted with various chains and cuffs for holding a person upright, spread-eagled, and helpless. Dare felt like his whole body was blushing, but he couldn't stop looking at them.
"It's called a St. Andrew's Cross," Roman said. "Very useful for flogging and whipping."
Dare's dick twitched, and he felt even more uncomfortable.
"You like those?" Roman's voice was soft in Dare's ear, breath hot on his neck.
"Have you ever tried anything like this?" Roman asked, his hand brushing the nape of Dare's neck.
"No. God, no. Um, I mean, well. I'm just not interested."
"You look like you're interested."
"All right. On with the tour."
Roman opened a cabinet door. "Lots of toys in here," he commented, as he gestured for Dare to have a look.
Behind one door were dildos and vibrators and weird-shaped things -- the likes of which Dare had never seen and had no idea what they were for. Behind another were common metal handcuffs and leather cuffs with locks attached. And collars. And a black leather hood with a zipper where a person's mouth would be.
Dare shuddered, and Roman led him away.
Roman showed him a dressing room with lockers, a walk-in shower, and a small, rectangular tub with a large open drain. Roman pointed to the shower. "That's for cleaning the outside." He pointed to the small tub. "And that's for cleaning the inside."
Dare tried to swallow, but couldn't. "Yikes," he said, wondering if he really understood what Roman meant or if his imagination was running wild.
"I have some intense parties," Roman said.
"Yeah, I kind of gathered that, from hearing customers talk."
"You should come to the next one."
Dare wanted to run, screaming, up the stairs to the safety of the club. "Maybe. If I'm not busy," he choked out, thinking, Not on the coldest day in hell.
"Don't panic, Dare, it's just a tour."